Atsuage (Deep Fried Tofu) is a very popular ingredient among Japanese people because it is a cheap source of protein. The outside is puffy and a bit crunchy but inside is a smooth silky tofu. Atsuage is excellent to eat on its own or cook with other vegetables.
I first introduced atsuage in my post, Kanazawa-style Simmered Chicken and Tofu (Jibuni). In the post, I talked about atsuage with sample photos and explained where the name came from. I also used atsuage in Stir-fried Choy Sum with Deep Fried Thick Tofu.
In Japan, atsuage is sold not only at tofu specialty shops but also in the tofu section at any supermarket or grocery store.
Until recently, the Asian grocery store near my house was selling fresh atsuage packs but they don’t sell them anymore. I went to many other Asian grocery stores in search of fresh atsuage but could not find it.
I even drove far away and visited the tofu shop that was printed on the container of the atsuage that I used to buy (see the photo below). But the shop was only open until midday and I was too late. When this happened, I thought my luck was not favouring me and decided to make my own atsuage.
How to make Atsuage (Deep Fried Tofu)?
It is very simple to make atsuage. Get a tofu block and deep fry it without coating it, ie. su-age (素揚げ). That’s all there is to it.
I explained about su-age in my recent recipe, Fried Vegetables in Broth (Vegetables Agebitashi). My post, Agedashi Tofu also uses deep-fried tofu pieces but it coats the tofu with cornflour/corn starch before frying. This method of frying tofu is the major difference between these dishes and the textures of the tofu pieces are quite different.
When you makeatsuage, you will need to remove the extra moisture before deep-frying it.
- Wrap the tofu slice in kitchen paper and place it on a cutting board.
- On top of the tofu, place a tray with a small weight or a flat plate upside down.
- Lift one end of the cutting board so that the water drains well.
- Leave it for 10-15 minutes.
Pat dry the tofu and deep fry. The temperature of the oil should be about 175C/347F. The hot oil makes a bubbling noise initially due to the water in the tofu, but surprisingly it does not splash any more than Karaage Chicken, which is coated with flour before frying.
I use a flat sieve with a handle to transfer the tofu into the oil as well as turn it over so that the tofu does not break. A slotted metal spatula is also good to use. When both sides of the tofu become light golden brown, it is done. It only takes about 5 minutes.
Tofu suitable for Atsuage (Deep Fried Tofu)
You can use either silken tofu (kinugoshi-doufu, 絹ごし豆腐) or regular/momentofu (木綿豆腐). Silken tofu is a little bit fiddly due to its soft texture, but you will enjoy a delicate atsuage with very soft tofu inside.
Very hard tofu is not suited for atsuage since the soft texture inside the atsuage contrasted with the deep-fried skin outside is the key to atsuage.
I made atsuage with silken tofu as well as momentofu. The photo below is the atsuage made with silken tofu (left) and momen tofu (right).
I actually liked momentofu atsuage better because the inside was still soft and was easier to handle. It also kept the shape of the tofu block well.
Thickness of Atsuage
The ideal thickness of atsuageis about 2.5cm/1″. In Australia, the thickness of a standard 300g tofu pack is less than 5cm. So, if you slice the tofu in half horizontally, which is the ideal shape to make atsuage,it becomes a bit thinner than 2.5cm/1″. That’s close enough and from 1 standard pack of tofu, you can make two atsuage pieces.
But if you want to try and see what the ideal thickness of atsuagelooks like, by all means slice it to 2.5cm/1″ thick. The thinner remaining slice can become a very thin atsuage if you deep-fry or can be used in miso soup, etc.
I made atsuage with less than 2cm/¾” thick tofu. It looked OK but when I bit into it, I just didn’t get enough soft tofu inside and it made the atsuage a tiny bit oily. But the flavour and the texture were the same.
How to eat it?
The list below shows the various ways of eating atsuage. The best way to have freshly made hot atsuage is to simply eat it with soy sauce and toppings (as per today’s recipe). You can enjoy the different texture of the atsuage and the great tofu flavour.
- Cut freshly made hot atsuage into bite size pieces and dribble with soy sauce. Additional toppings such as finely chopped shallots/scallions, grated ginger and/or bonito flakes would be great to use as well. It is actually exactly the same way of eating as Chilled Tofu.
- Eat at room temperature with the toppings mentioned above.
- Grill on the BBQ, grill pan or frying pan to warm it up – great when atsuage is chilled in the fridge. Cook at low heat until the centre of the tofu becomes warm and the outside becomes crispy. Eat with the toppings mentioned above or pour vegetable sauce (refer to Tofu with Vegetable Sauce) or thick sauce (refer to Japanese Meatballs (Niku-dango) with Two Sauces) over it.
- Stir-fry with other ingredients – see Stir-fried Choy Sum with Deep Fried Thick Tofu as an example. Use atsuage as a substitute for meat in other stir-fry dishes.
- Simmer with other ingredients – see Kanazawa-style Simmered Chicken and Tofu (Jibuni).
- Add to miso soup to give extra volume to it.
You can keep atsuage for 2-3 days in the fridge.
It is possible to freeze atsuage but the tofu inside becomes a bit spongy. For this very reason, I would not recommend freezing atsuage unless you are stir-frying or simmering it.
Atsuage (Deep Fried Tofu) is a very popular ingredient among Japanese people as a cheap source of protein. The outside is puffy and crunchy but inside is a smooth, silky tofu. Atsuage is excellent to eat on its own or cook with other vegetables.
Prep Time includes the time to drain the water out of the tofu.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 300g/10.6oz fresh tofu (1pack, note 1)
- Oil to deep fry
- Finely chopped shallots/scallions
- Grated ginger
Slice the tofu horizontally into half. It should make 2 pieces of about 2-2.5cm/¾-1" thick block (note 3).
Place a clean kitchen towel or kitchen paper on a cutting board and place the tofu pieces on it. Cover the tofu pieces with another kitchen towel/paper, then on top of it, place a tray with a small weight or a flat large plate upside down.
Place something underneath one end of the cutting board to tilt the board and positon the board so that the excess water drains into the sink. Leave it for 10-15 minutes.
Fill a saucepan or a frying pan with oil and heat to about 175C/347F. The depth of the oil needs to be 3-4cm/1¼-1½“as a minimum.
Pat dry a tofu slice with kitchen paper, place the tofu on a slotted metal spatula or a flat sieve spoon and gently slide it into the oil. Lots of bubbles will rise up because the tofu contains water, but they will settle down.
Cook for 4-5 minutes until the outside of the tofu becomes firm and lightly browned. Turn it over half way using the spatula/sieve spoon.
Using the spatula/sieve spoon, transfer the tofu to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb excess oil.
Cut the in half lengthwise. Then cut it crosswise into four, making 8 small blocks in total.
Plate the atsuage, topped with shallots and ginger. Serve while hot with soy sauce (note 4).
To eat, pour the soy sauce over the toppings and atsuage.
1. Silken tofu or momen tofu is best suited for making atsuage. Silken tofu is slightly more difficult to handle due to the delicate texture of the tofu. If difficult, make smaller blocks of silken tofu but retain 2.5cm/1" thickness.
2. It is OK to eat atsuage without topping but I find that adding at least one topping makes it tastier. Other popular toppings include grated daikon and julienned Japanese perilla.
3. Depending on the brand, the thickness of the tofu block varies. The ideal thickness of the tofu for making atsuage is 2.5cm/1". My tofu was just over 4cm/1⅝" thick, which was a bit too thin to make two slices of ideal thickness.
To show you the ideal atsuage size, I sliced the tofu into a 2.5cm/1" thick. I ate the leftover as chilled tofu.
But you can make two slices of slightly thinner atsuage.
4. Serving options:
a. As per the recipe instruction, eat atsuage while it is hot with toppings such as finely chopped shallots/scallions, grated ginger, julienned shiso (Japanese perilla) or bonito flakes, etc.
b. At room temperature with the toppings mentioned above.
c. Grill on the BBQ, grill pan or frying pan to warm up – great when atsuage is chilled in the fridge. Cook at low heat until the centre of the tofu becomes warm. Eat with toppings mentioned above.
d. Stir-fry with other ingredients – see Stir-fried Choy Sum with Deep Fried Thick Tofu.
e. Simmer with other ingredients – see Kanazawa-style Simmered Chicken and Tofu (Jibuni).
f. Add to miso soup to give the soup an extra volume.
5. Nutrition per serving, not including toppings and soy sauce. Assumed that oil absorption rate is 3%.
serving: 155g calories: 164kcal fat: 12g (18%) saturated fat: 1.7g (9%) trans fat: 0.0g polyunsaturated fat: 4.8g monounsaturated fat: 5.2g cholesterol: 0mg (0%) sodium: 6mg (0%) potassium: 195mg (6%) carbohydrates: 1.8g (1%) dietary fibre: 1.5g (6%) sugar: 1.1g protein: 15g vitamin a: 0% vitamin c: 0% calcium: 33% iron: 17 %